wokeness woke meter politically correct
The curious case study of Dr. Helen Hsu, PsyD, "Rematriating Psychology," and how it illustrates the near-complete encroachment of cultural Marxism on western psychological science and practice.

The field of psychology has been hard hit by the shift in radical political ideology geared toward "dismantling" or "decentering Eurocentric" values, "rematriation" and "decolonization." A simple google search of these terms will bring up a slew of recent articles with most of them published within the past decade or so.

In this article, we first describe the underlying ideology of this recent movement and use an example of a recently-elected midlevel functionary of the American Psychological Association to frame the discussion.

Then we describe the potential harms this movement has to the validity of psychology and the public trust.

Finally, we will finish with highlighting the value of retaining the values of sound, rigorous scientific principles, rationalism, objectivity and why it is foolish and ultimately antithetical to psychological or clinical science writ large to dismiss these values as "tools of oppression," "white supremacy," "whiteness," or other nonsense that's fashionable today.

The shift toward radical political ideology in so many fields of study in recent years may seem confusing, if not dumbfounding, to most casual observers. However, the ideology and work, or "praxis," to inculcate it into so many different spheres has been the focus of leftist academics for several decades. The ideology and praxis stem from a combination of influences that include neo-Marxist "Critical Theory," elements of "Cultural Marxism" largely posited and put forward by Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, and a sprinkling in of postmodern philosophy. Herein, we use a recent 'case example' to illustrate these concerns.

APA's Division 45 and the Case of Dr. Helen H. Hsu, Psy.D.

A whistleblower working in a large, national healthcare system sent one of the authors (Dr. Haltigan) a heads up about this person, a Dr. Helen H. Hsu - who is listed on Stanford University's website as the "Outreach Director" of their Counseling and Psychological Service and also as a lecturer.

Dr. Hsu is also president-elect of Division 45 of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Before we explore a bit more about the new president-elect of APA Division 45, we should figure out what this division is. Note that the "little APA" is organized like this, as a conglomeration of various practice-oriented and research-oriented groups, or Divisions. One of the authors, GeroDoc, is aware of the two aging-related divisions within the APA, Division 20: Adult Development and Aging, and Division 12, Section II: Society for Clinical Geropsychology, which are loosely the APA's research and practice-related groups that are devoted to the science and practice of gerontology and clinical geriatrics. Likewise, Haltigan is aware of several divisions, including Division 5: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods and Divison 7: Developmental Psychology.

What is Division 45? From the Division 45 website (boldface text added):
"The Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race, a Division of the American Psychological Association (APA), is the major representative body for psychologists who conduct research on ethnic minority concerns or who apply psychological knowledge and techniques to ethnic minority issues. The Division's purpose is to advance psychology as a science and to promote public welfare through research, to apply research findings towards addressing ethnic minority issues, and to encourage professional relationships among psychologists with these interests.

It also represents ethnic minority concerns within the governance of the APA."
The APA's "Society for Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race" as you might think from the title does not appear interested in the study of 'culture, ethnicity and race' per se - for example, focused on studying culture as an emergent property of the human race from a sociobiological standpoint, or exploring unifying issues such as the psychological mechanisms underlying cultural transmission, the role of shared rituals and symbols in fostering social cohesion, the impact of cultural evolution on cognitive development, or the ways in which cross-cultural interactions can lead to the emergence of new, hybrid cultural forms.

Instead, Division 45, founded in 1986, is, as it's charter notes, focuses on minorities, specifically.

But let's set that aside for the time being.

A casual reading would lead someone to believe that Division 45's purpose was simply to study, using psychological science - the nature and particular issues specific to the various ethnic minority populations within the US, particularly given the fact that the United States has seen significant growth in it's population of citizens with native lineage outside of indigenous European / Anglo-Saxon cultures since the 1960s.

Right? A legitimate area of interest and study. Division 45 reflects this focus in their flagship journal, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

When you take a peek at the sample articles, or peruse the journal, a more complete and nuanced picture emerges, with articles exploring the psychological implications of "discrimination" and "racism" towards Asians, blacks, and various other minority groups explored with predominant and notable regularity, often using qualitative and "mixed-methods" approaches.

But, this is social science, and perhaps none of this is that unusual. And, racism and discrimination are topical issues today, right?

Incoming Division 45 President Elect: Helen Hsu, Psy.D.

helen h. hsu woke psychology mental health rematriation
© Stanford Univerisity
Dr. Helen H. Hsu holds a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant University (2001). Also, unsurprisingly probably at this point, she also holds a B.A. in Psychology and Asian American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (1995).

For some context and for those not in the know, the entity called "Alliant University" that granted Dr. Hsu her degree is what is called in the business a "professional school."

That is to say, Alliant is not actually a university in a traditional sense. It's graduate students are not supported financially by professors doing research in a university - instead, Alliant students pay the school directly, using almost exclusively federally loans) racked up by their students.

Although Alliant doesn't publish data on this, a (likely conservative) estimate is that these students often graduate with debt loads of well north of $150,000, and often upwards of $200,000 or more, which makes their graduates increasingly reliant on promises of "loan forgiveness" programs which have become increasingly politically popular amongst certain political parties.

So, it is fair to say that schools like Alliant are entirely focused on churning out psychologists who are both not trained in research, and who are economically incentivized to prioritize high-paying clinical roles and private practice opportunities, or if those don't materialize - working in "nonprofit" institutions (like Stanford University) that qualify you for federal student loan forgiveness programs, basically as 'activist-scholars' .

We only mention this simply to provide context, and to perhaps highlight the irony of a vocally "anti-capitalist" APA Division president-elect as it's graduate, one who also speaks in almost militant tones at times about "rematriating" the apparently ill-gotten spoils academic psychology to "serve communities."

With this context and background in mind, lets explore some of the background and public statements of Dr. Hsu, the president-elect of Division 45 a bit further. According to her Stanford Profile and a very sparse history on Google Scholar, her professional publication history includes possibly two book chapters, and a quick, unconfirmed meta-search indicates possibly a published peer-reviewed journal article or two (although writers were unable to locate). Dr. Hsu's most notable contribution to the field appears to be practice guides, with an emphasis on "culturally adapting" evidence based psychotherapy.

Dr. Helen H. Hsu's Vision for Division 45: Far-Leftist Political Activism

Dr. Hsu has an interesting case to make as Division 45's incoming President, which one can glean by one of her recent public speaking events available online, where she discusses her 'Presidential Theme,' which is the concept of "Rematriating Psychology.'"

This is essentially the same content found in a separate podcast (which can be listened to on Apple Podcast or similar services), with a more overtly activist title, "Strength in Solidarity."

Her commentary in these presentations and elsewhere indicate a focus on familiar themes borne of the so-called "critical race theory" literature and intellectual tradition, such as systemic racism, "white privilege," and familiar tropes that ironically (given her background as an Alliant grad) disparage capitalism.

Worse yet is finding multiple examples where Dr. Hsu speaks about, and endorses the concept of "decolonization." I say, pointedly, "worse" because as we've seen recently, "decolonization" isn't just an innocently intellectual concept, but involves at times shocking and depraved levels of violence:
hamas parachute invasion israel
On 10/7/23 at the Israel Supernova Festival and several kibbutizm, over 1400 Israeli citizens, children, and seniors were treated to "decolonization" in practice.
So what is "Rematriation?"

Leaving aside her handful of Dr. Hsu's offerings that focus more on pedestrian practice-oriented themes, Dr. Hsu's internet footprint is basically what in our current 'post-Floyd' era appears to be a familiar, if not overtly racialized brand of leftist political activism, thinly marketed towards the APA membership under a feminized, therapeutic veneer that most people would associate with the so-called "DEI" (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) movement.

What is "rematriation"? According to Dr. Hsu, from her Apple Podcast Appearance
"(rematriation) often refers to land back, but also preserving cultural practices through future generations. And in my process, I'd also been thinking about how there's a lot of efforts now for countries and cultures to repatriate stolen belongings. So museum pieces, things like that. And yet, I don't love the word repatriate, and I was sitting with that and thinking about that. And repatriation is a lot about transferring the belonging or ownership."
What Dr. Hsu preaches here are ideas that trace their roots directly back to Marxist philosophy, nothing more, nothing less - but instead of traditional Marxism's emphasis on redistribution of capital through class struggle, Dr. Hsu redistribution of cultural capital through class struggle, fit into the schema of race.

What we are alluding to here, obviously, is the idea of "cultural marxism" - a controversial term, typically either written off as a conspiracy theory, or because it has a history (a legitimate one, in fact) of being associated with actual anti-semitism.

Readers should consider that there is a way of using this term that is neither borne of conspiratorial thinking, and certainly not of anti-semitism, but simply to describe accurately the philosophical tradition of which people like Dr. Hsu hail from (from James Lindsay's definition at The New Discourses - worth a complete read):
(Cultural Marxism)... is a way of thinking that applies Marx's conflict theory along cultural lines in order to destabilize cultural hegemony and/or systemic power (which are approximately the same thing — see also, Foucauldian and episteme) for the purposes of achieving something much more like communism (or socialism) than capitalism. In particular, these people will be describing an ideology that is specifically critical, in the Marxian "ruthless criticism of everything that exists" sense. It is critical specifically of the liberal order and Enlightenment rationalism and carries the objective of using Critical Theory to awaken the oppressed from false consciousness and to the injustice in the system, and thus to take up the fight for a social, cultural, and political revolution for "liberation" (see also, critical consciousness and consciousness raising).
It appears to fit Dr. Hsu's thinking - if not much of the modern "DEI" and "Woke" movement well.

Dr. Hsu seems to have this repeating theme about how "academic psychology" must be made to serve "community psychology," and opposed to the other way around - as of the relationship between those doing academic research, whether applied or basic / fundamental, and practitioners in the field was some sort of master-slave relationship that required liberation.

From an advertisement for one of her upcoming professional presentations, Dr. Hsu notes:
"... the ongoing divide between academic psychology and applied community clinical policy psychology... Rising voices from our motherlands are demanding psychology engage ethically with people of the world in our study and application. Scholars, clinicians, activists, and students seek liberation psychology..... Just as people worldwide are seeking stolen art and human remains to be repatriated, ways of knowing and healing can be rematriated alongside calls to rematriate land."
Again, the messaging is clear. This isn't about integrating science and practice in smarter or more effective ways, or about training better practitioners. This is a political project being preached here.

This is classic cultural Marxism, exactly how James Lindsay describes it in the definition above - it's ideological propaganda, suggesting that the "community" needs to be 'liberated from' this hegemonic view of "academic psychology" that oppresses them. This ideology of majority versus minority, white versus "BIPOC," academic vs community psychology, is all part of a theme - that of pitting groups in conflict with each other, and is part and parcel with what is often referred to as "intersectionality."1

The Socially and Epistomologically Destructive Consequences "Rematriation," "Decolonization," and Related Ideas

Most of what we've seen of Dr. Hsu's work seems to be aspirational, feminized, therapeutized rewarming of critical race theory inspired ideas repackaged for the APA membership - but in the writers' opinions it still has potential to do lasting damage.

Before we go on - we should note that culture, which is intertwined with language - appear to be emergent properties of human beings as they exist in communities. Culture and language are how we bond and create shared understandings. Culture and yes, ethnicity and race we agree are indeed phenomena that we can and should study using the tools of science. So, studying so-called "minoritized" cultures (which , however defined), should be just as much of interest as studying any other.

This, of course, means that the study of culture, ethnicity, and yes, race should also legitimately include the study of the unique language, culture, and ethnicities of - Europeans - or what is commonly known as (gasp!) whites.

That being said - for Division 45 and for Dr. Hsu this clearly not on the table.

Instead, Dr. Hsu and from what can be seen from a casual perusal, the editorial position of the flagship journal of Division 45 is all-in on the idea that "indigenous ways of knowing" are superior and that academic psychology (which she refers as being irretrievably, apparently, tied up with "capitalistic settler norms") needs to fundamentally change itself in a way so that it serves the "needs of the community."

But even though Division 45 (and largely APA itself) largely treats the culture and ethnicity of native Europeans as anathema - that doesn't mean we have to.

Eurocentric Traditions, "Ways of Knowing," The Enlightenment, and the World

In the West, today, what we would call Eurocentric values (or "ways of knowing," if you prefer) are frequently only talked about in mainstream academia and public discourse in often hostile or even overtly racially bigoted language - as "colonial" or "oppressor" thinking, or dismissed disparagingly as "whiteness" (and therefore not worthy of consideration.

The wonderful thing about the particular Eurocentric values we speak of here is that they are not typified by particular skin color, or "way of knowing," but in fact are typified by the massive leap forward in human progress in areas of science, philosophy, art, and culture represented by the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.

One extremely important value which sprang forth from the Enlightenment was that of free inquiry, the goal of which is to facilitate the best methods of attaining knowledge and considering different perspectives is in the best interests of that pursuit. This is best stated in a quote from John Stuart Mill:
"He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form."
To put it plainly - "indigenous ways of knowing" are not limited to the people who are not white. In fact, prior to the Enlightenment "indigenous ways of knowing" were no different in European civilizations of the more distant past.

the enlightenment western civilization key figures science
The Enlightenment was a European intellectual movement that emphasized the power of reason and empirical observation to understand the world, leading to significant advancements in science, the development of universal principles, and the promotion of individual dignity and freedom. This period saw the rise of empiricism, the application of scientific methods, and the emergence of influential thinkers like René Descartes, Isaac Newton, and Sir Francis Bacon who shaped the way people understood the natural world and humanity's place within it.

Indeed, focusing on Francis Bacon - he set the stage for the emergence of excellence by emphasizing empirical data to tease apart observations and seek truth in a systematic manner.

Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and Johannes Kepler laid the foundations for modern science. Newton's laws of motion and universal gravitation, published in 1687, revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. The list of massive, pathbreaking Enlightenment-era "ways of knowing" that revolutionized our understanding of the world and have led to so much massive progress go on and on.

But - psychology and the social sciences (the "soft" sciences) are perhaps a special case.

Given that we are working in the realm of psychological structures and constructs that can not be directly measured and weighed, such as is the case in many physical sciences, we have to be particularly wary of "reification fallacy" - or thinking something exists just because we say it does.

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© Horst Tappe / Bridgeman ImagesSir Karl Raimund Popper - who taught us that if a theory cannot be falsified, then it is not science (hello critical race “theory”!)
The contributions of Sir Karl Popper's concept of "falsifiability" and further elucidated by Paul Meehl are essential elements in the professional development of our field.2

Yet - the challenges to the "Eurocentric," "white," model of psychology - with it's emphasis on objectivity, falsifiability, replicability, and universality - continues apace and even includes moves, absurdly, to abolish professional standards entirely for political ideology, claiming these professional standards are oppressive or lack validity in comparison to "indigenous ways of knowing."

These claims are quite obviously astonishing nonsense.

But there is trepidation of psychologists and other academics to state this at all clearly - why? It hinges on a combination of the insidious influence of postmodern philosophy, and a real fear of professional ostracism (for being "racist" or perhaps worse, a "Trump supporter.")

The concerns regarding speaking up against the ideological orthodoxy are not without justification. Greg Lukianoff and his co-author Rikki Schlott detail significant examples of many people affected by cancel culture attacks with real-world consequences to social, emotional, and occupational effects. They refer to the "Perfect Rhetorical Fortress" which can operate as a set of coercive techniques to enforce ideological conformity. To question, even just to encourage examination of evidence or logic, can result in ad hominem attacks, ostracization, and reputational harm.

Regarding postmodernism - postmodern philosophy essentially claims that truth cannot be known because we lack direct access to it and that it is mediated through language. Therefore, language is only a claim to power and should be used to grab as much power as possible.

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A line for food in Ukraine in 1932, during one of the largest human-caused famines in human history, the Soviet Communist State inspired Holomodor.
This is very convenient for neo-Marxist ideology because Marxism fails, miserably, every single time and with absolutely devastating human suffering. This inconvenient truth can be subverted since there is not a need to try to tell "the truth" once you mix in a bit of this postmodern nonsense.

The other element are what the late philosopher, Daniel Dennett, referred to as a deepity. In short, a deepity is a statement that sounds profound but asserts something either trivial or lacks substance. Relevant examples here are "indigenous ways of knowing" and "lived experience." If one pauses to consider these terms for a moment, one realizes that all civilizations had "indigenous ways of knowing" prior to the advancement and development of that group. Similarly, lived experience is just another way of describing 'anecdotal reporting'. Further, there is no other experience than that of the living. It would be nonsensical to refer to "dead experience" and once that is clear, the nonsensicality of the statement becomes crystal clear.

When it comes to the field of psychology, as we have noted, it is of even more importance to be careful and conscientious of the claims that are made and how we communicate these to the public. Concerns about the ideological capture of clinical and counseling psychology are genuine, but often appear to fall on deaf ears of organizations such as the American Psychological Association. The implications for clinical care and the safeguarding of public trust should be of paramount interest for those dedicated to the credibility and fidelity of these fields.

It is also important to note how we got to this point. Not every psychologist or psychology training program has been ideologically captured and not all are social justice warriors. Indeed, for the process was likely slow and insidious and could have moved in that direction over time simply as a result of a left-leaning bias in the field. However, though some of this shift may have been unintentional ideological drift, there has been a concerted movement by neo-Marxist political activists to intentionally subvert all aspects of our society.

We introduced the Italian Cultural Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, earlier though it is worth while to flesh out his contributions a bit. His idea was that the "cultural hegemony," or the general social fabric and institutions of society, maintain the status quo and interfere with the supposed "progressive" move toward socialism and communist utopia. To overcome the barrier of people being satisfied in capitalism and the social fabric interfering with communism, he encouraged infiltrating the institutions (e.g., education, media, legal, religion, and family) in order to disrupt these systems and create the conditions for revolution (e.g., bitterness, cynicism, social strife). These ideas have been put into practice, not in Italy but in China, and the results are in, and the human death toll is absolutely catastrophic.
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The radical Marxist ideologies were adopted by many students and political activists in American universities in the 1960s. When the reality of the communist ideology became clear, most people abandoned it and moved on with their life. However, the dedicated ideologues held onto the ideology and went back to the proverbial drawing board. This was referred to as the long march through the institutions in which ideologues sought positions in academia and other institutions to instill the ideology in society and youth.

Marxist conflict theory segregates every last one of us on this earth into two groups - oppressor and oppressed. Intersectionality extends this false dichotomy along a myriad of social factors, though limits the divisions in politically convenient ways.

Marxism in all its forms - the more classic versions practiced in Soviet Russia or North Korea, or in CCP China, or in its western variants like the critical theories (including critical race theory), is anti-human.

It is anti-human in the sense that it proposes to be able to change the very nature of man simply socially engineering (through force as needed) social inputs. Marxism and it's intellectual diaspora are also clearly religious in nature - the theological nature of Marxism has been described directly as well as observed by scholars such as John McWhorter based on observations of "Wokeness."

Psychological science is fundamentally, philosophically at odds with the half-baked theological quackery proselytized by people like Helen Hsu.

As a science borne of Enlighenment rationalism, psychology is by its nature focused on the individual in terms of developmental psychology, how one's biology and social environment influence psychological factors, what may influence abnormal behavior, and how clinical interventions may alleviate distress and disruptions for that individual. Marxism, on the other hand is collectivist and is anti-human.

The scientific method that the "Eurocentric" world has brought us has been refined and contributed to by people of all walks of life around the world. The origins in Europe do not offer any sense of justifiable criticism. The indigenous people of that Britain, where Sir Francis Bacon hailed from, were themselves colonized and this resulted in their access to written language and knowledge.

thomas sowell
© Free To Choose Network / YouTubeAmerican economist, social theorist, and political philosopher Tom Sowell
As the great Thomas Sowell noted in his book Conquest and Culture, the indigenous British people surely did not appreciate the Roman conquests, but that planted the seed for future development. Once the scientific method was developed, it has benefited all of humanity.

It is not limited or circumscribed to any set of people and it is worth defending and celebrating.